Photos by Susan HalbowerHave you noticed that the lowly hot dog has moved uptown? There are restaurants across the country specializing in a thousand and one ways to serve the dog, and some of them have really creative names: The Dogfather, Willie's Weenies, Hot Diggety Dogs, Hot Dog Heaven, Frankies by the Sea, Dogsters, Flying Weenie (We have Flying Saucer (beer) and Flying Fish in Fort Worth, so that one really intrigued me), Matt's Gourmet Hot Dogs (there it is--the idea of hot dogs being gourmet), and so many others I can't list them all.
In the Kelly O'Connell Mystery I'm currently working on, one of the characters wants to open an upscale hot dog restaurnt. At a loss what to name it, I put out a plea for help on the Sisters in Crime subgroup Guppies and on Facebook, and I was flooded with suggestions--two-and-a-half pages worth. Some I really liked included Chez Haute Dog, Dogs of Distinction, Franks with Flair, Frankly Wienerful, Dogs 'n Dijon, Oui! Oui! Weenies. The winner, submitted by a former neighbor and chosen by my daughter, Jordan, is Bun Appetit.
But the whole thing inspired me to fix a hot dog bar for a Labor Day picnic for neighbors and a few friends I put a wide variety of toppings on a lazy susan and made little tent cards with suggestions:
Mexican Dog: salsa, jalopenos, cheese, crushed chips; wrap it in a tortilla
Coney Dog (this is traditional): chili, cheese, and onions
Franks 'n Beans: baked beans not pintos, onion, mustard
Chicago Dog (also traditional): chopped tomato, dill pickle slice, sweet pickle relish, onion, mustard
German or Reuben Dog: Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, sweet pickle relish, brown mustard
Others that I didn't offer include:
Hawaiian Dog: grilled pineapple wedges and red onion rounds, chopped and seasoned with sugar, salt and cayenne
Bahn mi Dog: Dissolve 1 tsp.sugar in 2 Tbsp. white vinegar, add 2 shedded carrots and 1/2 tsp. coarse salt; top grilled hot dog with mayo, thinly sliced cucumber, carrot mixture, jalopenos, and cilantro (how do you get all that in your mouth?)
Croque Madame (French, obviously):Wrap the hot dog in ham and Swiss cheese and top with bechamel sauce (still questioning that in my mind)
And then there are the classic Donkey Tails from Tolbert's Restaurant: hot dogs stuffed with cheese, wrapped in a tortilla, and lightly fried, served with chili and salsa for dipping or dunking. I believe these are an invention of the late, great chili king, Frank Tolbert.
The possibilities are endless, but I advise starting with a good quality hot dog. There are many brands, but my favorites are Hebrew National and Nathan's. If you have other combinations, please do tell me about them. Maybe they'll go on the menu at Bun Appetit--I'm getting so carried away by the idea I just might have to open the restaurant.
Serve with chip and dip, potato salad and dessert if you wish.